Football and Politics (Part 2)

Posted: June 13, 2011 by GaryCRobertson in Guest, Politics, Random

Continuing on from yesterday’s “Football and Politics” post, Keir tells us more on the influence politics has had on football.

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Zvonomir Boban

When people think of Zvonomir Boban, many will look at his illustrious career at AC Milan which saw him win 4 championship medals and, as a part of a Fabio Capello side that demolished Barcelona 4-0 in the final, a Champions League one. Or maybe his captaincy of a Croatia side that finished third in the 98 world cup at the first attempt and having only gained independence from Yugoslavia 7 years prior. Many though would look at a match between Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade played on May 13th 1990.

Tensions were running high. Just a few weeks previous, Nationalists had won the first multi party elections in Croatia (at this point a constituent country of Yugoslavia) and in Yugoslavia as a whole. With the match taking place in Zagreb between Yugoslavia’s two fiercest football rivals to throw the political backdrop of these nationalist victories into the mix was always going to create problems. Fights had broken out between the Bad Blue Boys (the Dinamo ultras) and the Delije (Red star’s ultras) in the hours before the match, but the trouble escalated inside the ground. The BBB started throwing stones at the away fans in their segregated area in response to the Delije chatting Serbian nationalist chants such as Zagreb is Serbia. Incensed by the stone throwing the Delije reacted by charging back at them with ripped up seats and advertising hoardings. The trouble would increase when the BBB eventually were able to get on the pitch to get at the Delije, this lead to running battles on the pitch and violent and bloody scenes in the midst of the chaos Red Star players had left the pitch to get to the safety of the dressing room but several Dinamo players were left on the pitch as the chaos ensued around them.  As extra police poured onto the pitch to try and deal with the chaos a Dinamo fan was being attcked by police Boban came over to try and stop it, the police were trying to pull him away but then this happened, The ‘kick that could be heard across the Balkans.’ It made Boban instantly a Croatian hero a symbol for the sentiment of the nation. Boban said of the incident:

“Here I was, a public face prepared to risk his life, career and everything that fame could have brought, all because of one ideal cause: the Croatian cause.”

Boban was suspended from the national team which led him to missing the World Cup (a moment more than made up for, by seeing an independent Croatia finish 3rd with him as captain in 1998) and criminal charges brought against him. In the end, Milan offered him a way out with the career he put on the line that day being well and truly fulfilled.

For many though he will always be the national hero who in that moment crystallised the feelings of a nation.

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Written by Keir. You can follow him on Twitter @Kingkeir

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